Leah Myers
The Navigator

Registered Acupuncturists Janet Cook (left) and Clayton Willoughby (middle) collaborated with Massage Therapist Sandi Magnussen (right) and have just opened Nanaimo Acupuncture, a clinic committed to bringing accessible and responsible healthcare to the city of Nanaimo. Photo by: Leah Myers

“Our clinic is responsible, and here for the community,” explains massage therapist Sandi Magnussen as she walks around the newly renovated clinic of Nanaimo Acupuncture, ran by Magnussen and two Registered Acupuncturists, Janet Cook and Clayton Willoughby.

“This is a community clinic,” says Magnussen. “Everybody should be able to afford proper healthcare. Not everyone can afford little luxuries, and we want to give back to the community.”

Situated comfortably downtown on Franklyn St., the clinic was the result of two established acupuncture clinics, To the Point Acupuncture and Island Community Acupuncture, meshing together to provide more complete and accessible care to Nanaimo residents.

“We were both in other clinics, but we said ‘hey why don’t we pool resources,’” says Willoughby. “We started seeing clients in mid-July, around the construction.”

The business has been officially running since the end of August, and even though the smell of paint and renovations still lingers in the air, the community response has been strong and the doctors are already seeing an influx of patients.

The three professionals are able to provide a range of services that are affordable for not only low-income clients, but for financially tied students as well.

“I was a student at one point and we realize not everybody has the money for extras,” says Cook, “so I try to make it affordable for everyone by prorating for students and for the low income.

Cook says there are many benefits for students.

“Students are studying lots, eating wrong and staying up late at night. It really wreaks havoc on their immune systems because their bodies are stressed. As a student you probably have digestive problems, diarrhea, constipation. Acupuncture helps to bring down your stress levels when you’re studying, helps you focus and get through all the late nights and coffee drinking.”

Cook has worked with many athletes over her 18 year career and can testify for the small miracles that acupuncture can sometimes work for sports injuries.

“I had a rugby player come in on a Wednesday and tell me he had a practice on Friday and a game on Saturday and was looking for help.” Cook says. “We did the needles and when he went to his practice on Friday, he said he did a great big kick and had no pain. He was able to play the whole game without pain when just the day before he wasn’t able to get off the couch.”

Cook says that it feels great to see people come in completely hunched over, needing help to walk, and then after one session be able to walk out on their own.

Unique aspects of the new clinic include the diverse range of services, affordability and accessibility to the general public and the attention to specific client needs. Nanaimo Acupuncture acts as a one-stop shop for general wellness and well-being.

“Health all works as a whole,” explains Magnussen. “Here you can go for your acupuncture and then go for your relaxation. Then you visit the gym and go home and eat properly.”

At the clinic, there is a massage therapy room, a private acupuncture room and a group acupuncture room.

“In China and Japan it’s very common to do group acupuncture,” says  Willoughby, who explained how community acupuncture is a way to be more efficient and be able to see more clients in a smaller time frame.

“I do it in the reclining bed go ahead and stick the pins in and then I can work on the next person. People will tell me that they can’t come in once a week at $ 80, well if I can  be seeing 3 or 4 people in the same amount of time, that would be just $20 each.”

The staff of the clinic also understands that some people may want to be in more private settings and so they also adhere to those clients. Magnussen stresses how great it is that the clinic has both community and private settings, as the community room is more affordable but the private rooms are more suitable for clients such as women going through female life cycles such as menopause.

“There is a counseling aspect to acupuncture as well,” says Cook. “Emotions have a lot of impact on organs and the more you can tell your acupuncturist, the more we can help. People often don’t know whether a health issue starts with an organ or starts with an emotion. But if someone says ‘I just broke up with my boyfriend’ at least I know what to work with and how I can help through acupuncture to get both the brain and body through the stress.”

“The most rewarding part is seeing people walk out with smiles,” says Cook, “instead of being grumpy because there’s pain, or sad because there’s pain.”

Even though acupuncture can be used to treat a plethora of different medical conditions including allergies and hypertension, Willoughby says that in his experience as a doctor, the two things that he sees acupuncture works best for are chronic pain and stress-related conditions such as anxiety and insomnia.

Both Cook and Willoughby attended International College of Traditional Chinese Medicine (ICTCM) in Vancouver, BC.